Overwhelming Emotions or Living Your Highest Dreams
Overwhelming Emotions or Living Your Highest Dreams
Overwhelming Emotions will rule our lives if we don’t recognize them. I know, I know. You’ve heard this all before. I’m repeating it because it is so easy to be controlled by our emotions that frequently, we can’t even see them at work governing us. I went through the first 41 years of my life, not seeing it! I meet people every day who appear not to see their overwhelming emotions governing their lives. I suspect it is way more prevalent than you or I realize.
A while back, I walked next door to meet the new family who had just moved into the neighborhood. A woman met me at the door. She invited me in and immediately started apologizing for the “disaster” in the living room. It seemed to me that she was experiencing overwhelming emotions around the state of the house. (I admit it did appear a nuclear war had taken place in that house recently.) Toys were all over the place, and clothes were strewn on every piece of furniture. The room was also dark because the window shades were down. It felt like a dingy old house even though we were in a brand new neighborhood. Ironically, in contradiction to the explosion I was standing in, on the walls were pictures of the happy wedding thirteen years ago, smiling children, and smiling family members.
The husband then walked through the living room without saying a single word. Immediately after he was gone, the wife started to unload her feelings. I just stood and listened; obviously, she was hurting.
They were both 39. Her husband was always in the basement living in his little world, she said. He had moved down there a few months earlier. She also said he was an alcoholic. Interestingly it also seemed to me that the wife was also living in her little world, upstairs. She told me she was lonely. She said she spent countless hours searching out old friends online.
The older kids were at school, but I doubt that they were immune to the darkness that filled that house when they came home. She told me she and her husband were heading toward divorce, and their oldest daughter had recently given her permission to go through with it.
She went on to say that she had married him because she thought he would change, and she could help him. She also thought they would be happy and that they would have a beautiful relationship together. She said she was so in love with him then. Now, she said, she just wanted to get away from him. “I’ll be happy once I get rid of him,” she cried.
Was she suffering from a case of overwhelming emotions? Was she acting out on how she felt when she married him? Was she acting out of how she feels when she says, “I’ll be happy once I get rid of him”? What has been driving her life through these very fateful choices she was considering?
I can’t say what their real situation was. I only heard a momentary sliver of their lives together, according to her perception. Yet, I can easily believe that she was not thinking much except about getting away from the horrible emotions that she felt. I suspect she was just trying to get away from the negative feeling pressures and overwhelming emotions that she had associated with her husband. I can say that if it was overwhelming emotions that got her into this situation, maybe she needs to get in touch with those overwhelming emotions and then see beyond them before she acts on them.
Why do we humans react to overwhelming emotions so drastically?
When we are searching for happiness, the challenging aspect is, we are hardwired to feel emotions and react to those feelings immediately. Survival wired us this way. If a tiger is in the bush beside the trail we’re walking on; we will run faster from the fear we feel than from the tiger itself. When we feel emotions and especially overwhelming emotions, it immediately lobotomizes our rational brain and demands physical action—generally, fight or flight.
This reaction becomes a real problem in our search for happiness because we live in a relatively safe world now. The situations that now arise rarely threaten our physical survival. However, we are threatened or benefited on a psychological level all the time. Unfortunately, because the reactionary part of our brain has no logical thought capabilities, it can’t tell the difference between a physical survival situation and a psychological survival situation, so it generates the same emotions for both, and that is where we create problems for ourselves
How do we define a psychological situation?
A psychological survival situation is our desire for a sense of affection, a sense of security, and a sense of control.
Usually, here’s what happens when a psychological survival situation arises: we feel emotions triggered by our beliefs about the situation. Our rational brain gets short-circuited, and we go back to survival based thinking. At this point, our minds usually also start inventing stories to explain the overwhelming emotions and our reactions to the situation. We then act on the feelings from the stories we’re telling ourselves instead of the reality of the situation. Additionally, all of this happens almost instantly before we have time to think logically.
Here are some simple examples comparing physical survival and psychological survival situations.
A Physical Survival Situation Using Negative Feeling Emotions:
The Reality: While hiking, you see a wild animal.The Emotional Reaction: You feel fear and insecurity.The Story You Tell Yourself: I will die if the wild animal catches me.The Physical Action: You run away from the wild animal and hopefully live to brag about it.A Physical Survival Situation Using Positive Feeling EmotionsThe Reality: Your skin cancer goes into remission.The Emotional Reaction: You feel elation.The Story You Tell Yourself: I’ll not take a chance on dying from skin cancer again.The Physical Action: You have any suspected cancerous skin removed immediately to prevent cancer’s recurrence and hopefully live to brag about it.
A Psychological Survival Situation Using Negative Feeling Emotions. Notice the reactions to the stores:
The Reality: Your boss is yelling, but you don’t know why.The Emotional Reaction: You worry about your job and feel fear and insecurity.The Story You Tell Yourself: You must have messed up if your boss is yelling.The Physical Action: You try to butter up the boss and secretly start checking job postings online.A Psychological Survival Situation Using Positive Feeling Emotions:The Reality: You fall “in love” with someone who has some behaviors you don’t like.The Emotional Reaction: You feel infatuation.The Story You Tell Yourself: I can help them overcome their bad behaviors.The Physical Action: You try to develop a relationship with that person and then suffer when they don’t change.
Here the critical point! The overwhelming emotions you feel from a psychological survival situation are distorted because they are not based on reality; they are based on the stories your mind invents. Now, add to that, virtually all distorted emotions feel negative in the end. In other words, almost all distorted emotions are self-induced suffering and unnecessary.
In the psychological survival examples above, if you’re experiencing the overwhelming emotions of worry about your job and security, you are reacting to the story you’re telling yourself because you don’t know why your boss is yelling. Your anxiety, fear, and insecurity are unnecessary suffering. And, if you’re telling yourself you can save someone, you’re trying to justify the overwhelming emotions associated with the infatuation you’re feeling for a person with bad behaviors. That will likely lead to unnecessary suffering as soon as the desire wears off.
You have probably guessed that I modeled the latter situated on the couple I mentioned earlier. When I met my neighbors, they were on the edge of divorce, angrily living in separate parts of the house, and both feeling a tremendous amount of negative emotions. They could have avoided all of their sufferings if they had only taken the time to recognize the feelings that they felt after they met. Before their relationship had moved into emotional pain, they could have made decisions based on reality. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
You Have Choices
I tell people they have choices. If they want to live a life filled with more joy, peace, and contentment, they can learn this stuff in pain, or they can learn it by practice. Or, they can choose never to learn it and probably be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Learning by pain is the path of ashes. They learn about themselves as their life burns and crumbles around them. However, if they choose to learn and practice while they’re in a positive phase in their life, it is a lot easier to create the Joy, Peace, and Contentment that they want.
We don’t have to learn about ourselves through the path of ashes.
When a crisis happens – and with it, all the overwhelming emotions surrounding the dilemma – if you have been practicing emotional grounding, you can move through the situation in the best direction for your overall life. It also means you can live your life always pursuing your highest goals and dreams.
Do you want to react to the emotion you’re feeling now, or do you want to reach your highest dreams? Unfortunately, it is rare for the two options to be congruent. Overwhelming emotions will come. That is life; we have to endure it sometimes. However, overwhelming emotions can take you to better places in your life. Or it can just take you to different scenes in your life with the same underlying problems. It’s your choice. Which one do you want?
Here’s the action point of this article. If you want to learn how to feel more joy, peace, and contentment, then start by asking yourself this one simple question:
What is the reality of this situation?
Posted May 31, 2014